Apart from literal submersion, how might we attune ourselves to an aquatic life? What will we eat, feel, hear?

1. Algae at Three Depths

Algae at Three Depths is a participatory installation in which audiences taste depth by consuming bubbles made from each of the three groups of seaweed: green, brown and red.

The pigments of each seaweed group absorb different wavelengths of light enabling each to conduct photosynthesis at different depths in the sunlit zone of the sea. The installation's bubbles embody these differences and lure visitors into exploring their relative differences in depth through taste.

The bubbles are formed using alginate; a giant kelp extract widely used in the food trade as a thickening, stabilizing and gelling agent. Visitors to the installation will have regularly consumed alginated products including ice-cream, ketchup, and beer foam, blissfully unaware of their seaweedy content.

By combining the abstracted product with its raw antecedents, the project invites tasters and onlookers to enter into contemporary debates surrounding oceanic extractive economies; from the relative transparency of food processing to the murky unpredictability of developing marine algal farms for biofuel production.

2. Do You Feel Wet?

Do You Feel Wet? is a participatory touch-based installation which invites audiences to test the validity of zoologist and bathysphere pioneer William Beebe's assertion that 'there is no sense of wetness' underwater.

A water-filled vessel the height of a forearm provides the means for audiences to test Beebe's assertion. Additional elements including aquatic oxygenating plants and artificially generated air bubbles provide dynamics to an otherwise sterile tank allowing those with more than a passing interest to test an inversion; Does air feel dry underwater?

Edible gels of Kelp, Gutweed and Dulse bound with Sodium Alginate attune tongues to oceanic extractive economies

Edible gels of Kelp, Gutweed and Dulse bound with Sodium Alginate attune tongues to oceanic extractive economies

3. Parietal Listening

We hear differently down there: In the water, the submerged outer ear is inundated with liquid and does not play a role in listening. Sounds are conducted to the inner ear by the bones behind and above the ear. Try it by putting a finger in one ear and tapping your skull behind the ear. Drum your fingers on your neck below the blocked ear

Listening in on the sea, whether via hydrophone, on film, or aquarium "follows a domestication of undersea worlds so that they are presented to us on our own terms, on land." [Picken, Ferguson, 2013]

Wet listening tries to interleave this situation with an aural aquarium enabling visitors to listen at the surface and/or submerge an ear. For those less inclined towards a dip, hydrophones provide a live feed.

Wet Sensing was commissioned by Whitstable Biennale 2018 as part of the ongoing Water Bodies project; an embodied research project "helping humans of all ages evolve into aquatic beings."


Thanks to Matthew De Pulford and Catherine Herbert @ Whitstable Biennale, and my fellow Water Bodies: Sarah Blissett, Ifor Duncan, Tuuli Malla, Zoe Tsaf.